Civil Society Program

Climate and Accountability: A Future ADB Accountability Mechanism?

Learning with Partners (ADB’s Accountability Mechanism and the Accountability Counsel)

Saturday, 4 May 2024, 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm (Asia/Tbilisi)
Museum of Fine Arts

SHARE THIS PAGE

Speakers

Julio Castor AchmadiCommunities Associate, Accountability Counsel

Julio Castor Achmadi has been working on human rights, democracy, and access to justice in Asia and beyond. He advocates for stronger accountability mechanisms in providing justice and remedy for communities impacted by investments made by international financial institutions. Mr. Achmadi currently supports herder communities in Mongolia to seek remedy from a harmful mining operation, and indigenous communities in Nepal to defend their lands from a transmission line project.

Donald BobiashExecutive Director for Canada, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden, ADB

Donald Bobiash has extensive experience in the Canadian Foreign Service and in international trade and development. He is currently the executive director representing Canada, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden at ADB. From September 2019 to September 2022, he was Canada’s representative on the Board of Directors of the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, DC. Prior to this assignment, he served as assistant deputy minister for the Asia and Pacific region, managing Canada’s bilateral, and trade relations and development assistance programs with Asia and the Pacific. During his career, Mr. Bobiash has been ambassador to Colombia, Indonesia, ASEAN, and High Commissioner to Ghana. His Asia service has included two assignments in Japan, one in Pakistan, and as Canada’s ambassador to ASEAN. He is a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal (2013).

Elisea Gozun Chair, Compliance Review Panel, ADB 

As chair of ADB's Compliance Review Panel, Bebet Gozun spearheaded lessons learned reports, seeing complaints as opportunities to learn and improve. She was secretary of the Philippines' Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and presidential advisor II for climate change. She instituted many policy reforms and innovative programs in the country. Co-founder of the Earth Day Network Philippines and leader of many regional and national NGOs advocating for people empowerment, sustainable development, and good governance, she was recognized by UNEP as Champion of the Earth for Asia and the Pacific in 2006.

Rayyan HassanExecutive Director, NGO Forum on ADB 

Rayyan Hassan is a Bangladesh national, with a background in environmental studies from the North South University, in Dhaka, Bangladesh and a master’s in social change and development from the University of Wollongong, Australia. He is pursuing a PhD in political economy from the University of Wollongong, Australia. As a civil society advocate, he regularly engages policymakers and major shareholders at ADB and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, bringing community issues to the forefront of the development debate.

Nianshan ZhangHead, Office of Safeguards, ADB

Nianshan Zhang is an economist with 35 years of work experience. Before becoming head of the Safeguards Office, he was the senior advisor and deputy director general of the Central and West Asia Department; and advisor and head of the Portfolio, Results, Safeguards and Gender Unit. His unit oversaw the implementation of ADB’s safeguards policies, investment portfolio, financial management, and gender equity of the department's projects. He joined ADB in November 2002.

Moderator

Imrana JalalSpecial Project Facilitator, ADB

Imrana Jalal, with expertise in gender, law, and accountability, is special project facilitator at ADB’s Accountability Mechanism, receiving and solving project safeguard complaints. In 2023, she received the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Medal of Honor for advancing gender equity and the rule of law from the World Jurist Association. Ms. Jalal was principal social development specialist at ADB and led the World Bank’s Inspection Panel as chair. Ms. Jalal is a founder of the civil society organization, Fiji Women’s Rights Movement, and was Fiji’s first human rights commissioner. She sits on the US boards of Equimundo and Global Rights for Women, organizations that promote equality.

This session focused on what the ADB Accountability Mechanism should look like with the new standalone safeguard standard on climate change under its new Environmental and Social Framework (ESF).

Julio Castor Achmadi, Communities Associate of the Accountability Counsel, cited several cases where communities were not fully involved right from the beginning of the projects and did not approve of the development projects supported by ADB. He noted that accountability mechanisms have not been able to address community concerns. He wondered about the sincerity of the “do no harm policy” of ADB and expressed concern that the new standard may not be effective either. He recommended that ADB ensures that the projects are community-centered and responsive when communities say the projects are not beneficial to them.

In her remarks, Elisea Gozun noted that addressing accountability in climate action will be challenging. The standard requires that noncompliance is direct, and it causes direct material harm. Noncompliance will be difficult to prove as there could be many contributory factors. She noted that ADB will do its best under the new ESF. She also noted that several cases brought to her office are returned due to the eligibility requirement that the complainant must first make a good-faith effort to settle the dispute with project authorities. Donald John Bobiash said that the wheels of justice move slowly and ensure fairness in the ADB interventions and accountability. He noted that to be fair, ADB must do field investigations. He drew attention to the forthcoming accountability review as an opportunity to improve the current system.

Rayyan Hassan stressed the need for more rigorous risk assessments and cautioned against under-categorization of projects. He emphasized the need to listen to affected communities and to stop projects that do not have community approval. Nianshan Zhang pointed out that, given the ADB’s Accountability Mechanism, his office tries to do a thorough job of implementing safeguards and minimizing complaints. He noted that the new climate standard will be challenging, and it will be important to make people aware of the safeguard policy and guidelines and to learn from experience.

During the discussions, ADB Managing Director Woochong Um thanked civil society organizations and the Accountability Mechanism officials for their respective roles in helping to improve the mechanism. He acknowledged that mistakes in the past were made but emphasized that ADB has learned from experience. He would like to see more emphasis placed on problem solving.